What’s Up with Opal?

This has been going on for so long that I wanted to organize the history and my thoughts here.

We bought the girls in May, and other than a couple of (common) parasite problems (which we quickly cleared up) and vaccinations, the first couple of months were fairly routine. Opal did have an allergic reaction (projectile vomiting, diarhea) about 12-15 hours after her third (and final) distemper vaccine, but this is also considered common, and we can treat her with benadryl or claritin before her next round of vaccines, so it’s fine.

But then some time in August (we think?), about 2-3 months after we got the girls, Opal started having intermittent congestion issues. At first, it only happened about once per week. Then it got more frequent, as often as daily. At first she was still almost as active as Onyx. Opal’s a little bit more “Chill”, so she’s not quite as rambunctious as Onyx, but at first the difference was minor. As time has gone on, Opal has become a bit less active/energetic, but we’re not sure if this is because she’s “sick” or she’s just a more relaxed ferret. She certainly doesn’t seem sick. Except the sniffles.

The video above has a few clips stitched together, so that you can hear what her congestion actually sounds like. Even when she’s like this, it’s not “constant”. She sniffles or coughs, then breathes normally for many seconds, then sniffles again.

We took her to the vet we had established as “ours” for the girls. He was stumped, but posted a truncated version of the above video on a vet-only forum that he has access to, and asked for advice. The only thing that anyone came back with is that it may be polyps in her sinuses. There’s no way to check for this non-invasively, and the only people who have a scope small enough to go up a ferret’s nose are Blue Pearl in Tampa.

But I thought an endoscopy was a pretty radical first step. I wanted to rule out other things first. We couldn’t get blood drawn (too fidgety) without knocking her out, so we left it there for a time.

Then one Sunday evening it started getting worse. By Monday afternoon, it sounded VERY SCARY.

I freaked out, I needed to get her to a vet ASAP. It was already close to 5pm though, so I had to race to find a vet that could see ferrets and was still open. So I went to another vet (happens to be the one my parents use).

They confirmed that Opal was stable enough that her life wasn’t in immediate danger, but they did X-rays and drew blood to look into it. The X-rays showed some possibly inflammation in the lungs, but there was nothing certain. Unfortunately, her blood work came back with elevated hematocrit and elevated kidney values (Urea was 37 instead of 33 max, Creatinine was 1 instead of .8 max). The vet didn’t suggest that elevated kidney values was affecting her lungs, but he was concerned. So we put her on 10 days of antibiotics. Then we went back for blood work and.. her kidney values were even higher!

So the next step was to take her to Blue Pearl for more X-rays and an ultrasound of her kidneys. Neither exam came back with any possible culprits, but it did eliminate cancer and a few other things. Her kidneys are normal sized, and have some cysts which are normal/hereditary/probably not the cause of her issues. They wanted a sterile urine sample but her bladder was empty by the time they got to her, so I need to take her back to my vet next week so they can stick a needle in her bladder. Her urine has been testing as diluted, which (combined with high kidney values) makes it seem like her kidneys are in overdrive and still unable to produce a normal amount of whatever they’re looking for in her urine.

And none of this explains her congestion.

So that’s where we are today. I’ll post updates as soon as we know anything.